Judge to lawsuit-happy Winklevoss twins: Third time’s not a charm

Tina Nguyen Contributor
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This has not been a good week for the Winkevii.

This week former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers ruthlessly mocked Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twin brothers who claim Mark Zuckerberg bamboozled them out of proper ownership of Facebook.  And today a U.S. District Court judge in Boston threw out their third lawsuit against the social media company.

Immortalized in the 2010 film “The Social Network,” the Olympic-rower Winklevoss twins claim Zuckerberg stole their idea for a social networking website and used the pilfered concept to create Facebook. Industry insiders say Facebook, which claims nearly 600 million users, is worth nearly $70 billion.

In dismissing the suit, judge John Woodruff maintains the legal precedent of ignoring other Winklevoss lawsuits against the world’s most popular social networking site.  The twins’ first suit against Facebook in 2004 netted them a $65 million settlement, but they filed a second suit in San Francisco in 2010; the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed that that one last April.

In that case, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski urged the twins, who claimed that they had been misinformed about the true value of their settlement, to drop the endless lawsuits.  “At some point, litigation must come to an end,” he wrote in his opinion. “That point has now been reached.”

Though the twins loudly proclaimed their intention to appeal the dismissal to the U.S> Supreme Court, they eventually decided on a different tactic: The moment they dropped their appeal to the high court, they immediately filed a second lawsuit in Boston. (Feds to shut down 800 data centers by 2012)

This time they claimed the Facebook legal team withheld incriminating evidence during 2008 settlement proceedings — evidence that would prove the company’s real value and establish that Facebook had cheated the twins out of their rightful share of Facebook stock.

The Winklevii have a history of overblown responses.  On Tuesday, Summers, who dealt with their earliest claims against Facebook as Harvard president, mocked the twins during a tech conference as Brooks Brothers-wearing “assholes.”  The two demanded that current Harvard president Drew Faust discipline Summers, now a Harvard professor.

“It was not [Summers’] failure to shake hands with the three of us upon entering his office (doing so would have required him to take his feet off his desk and stand up from his chair), nor his tenor that was most alarming,” they wrote in an open letter this week, “but rather his scorn for a genuine discourse on deeper ethical questions.

“Someone who does not value ethics with respect to his own conduct, would likely have little interest in this subject as it related to the conduct of others. Perhaps there is a ‘variability of aptitude’ for decency and professionalism among university faculty.”

Faust has not responded to the letter.

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Tina Nguyen